Deer Park - Firefox 1.5 Alpha
Sometime last week, I switched from Mozilla Firefox 1.0.6 to a more recent build. How is this possible, when 1.0.6 is the only version available for download on Mozilla's site?

The answer is that while Mozilla Firefox is open-source, its development is also open. This allows regular Firefox users like me (and hopefully you) to actively contribute by submitting bug reports and testing nightly builds made with the latest Firefox code. As their name suggests, nightly builds are created every night.

As the image shows, nightly builds do not currently use the Firefox artwork and branding. Instead they are referred to by the code name "Deer Park." While I had first switched to Deer Park Alpha 2 in July, I was forced to switch back because of a strange bug that seemed to be truncating the text I entered into textboxes, which made it impossible to write super-long essays here. Luckily, since the Firefox 1.5 beta is coming soon, Deer Park builds have relatively few bugs now. Since these versions of Firefox contain most of the features that will appear in Mozilla Firefox 1.5, there is a material advantage to using them.

But what does this have to do with anonymous programming? While Firefox maintains a significantly large core set of features, users are able to extend them through the use of extensions. Some of the most popular Firefox extensions are Adblock (which blocks advertisements), ForecastFox (which displays weather reports in Firefox), and Greasemonkey (which I have previously explained).

One of the extensions I regularly use is called LinkVisitor. When activated, the extension allows you to visit links in Firefox without visiting their pages. It comes in handy when I am using Gregarius to read full-text RSS feeds, as I can simply right-click on the entry's link after I have read it, without having visit the actual page and load all of the troublesome images (which takes a lot more time).

LinkVisitor is disabled in Deer Park
Unfortunately, when I installed Deer Park, it disabled LinkVisitor. Luckily, all Mozilla extensions come with the name of their author and a website. I assumed that it would be relatively easy to contact him and get him to update the extension, well before the 1.5 beta comes out.

Alas, the author ("Billy") seems to like his privacy. He provides neither an email address nor a personal website where people can contact him about the extension. While I have left a comment on the extension's website, there is no indication that Billy has even seen it, especially since the last time he left a comment was back in April.

Like Mozilla Firefox itself, the LinkVisitor extension is open-source. If Billy has retired from extension development or (God forbid) died, someone else can take over maintenance of the LinkVisitor project and update it so that it is compatible with Mozilla Firefox 1.5. But such a move would only occur after the community is sure that Billy is gone; it would be awkward for new development ot start only to find that Billy had been on a month vacation to the Pyrenees without telling anyone.

Billy's anonymity is not the reason that I do not know whether the extension will be updated; my queries to find out whether I can acquire the source for the AudioScrobbler plugin jscrob2 have also gone unanswered. However, Jordan Mendelson's wealth of contact information makes it relatively easy for me to keep bothering him unless he gives me an answer; I do not have the same luxury with Billy, because I do not have as many ways to contact him.